Initial Generous Gift Plants Seed for Major Expansion of the Rescue Mission's Food Services Center

Oct 5, 2016

Many families in Syracuse may take eating a meal together for granted.  But for those facing hardship, eating as a family may not always be an option. At the Rescue Mission, CEO Alan Thornton says this sparked an idea to expand their food center.

CNYCF President Peter Dunn, left, and Rescue Mission CEO Alan Thornton at the Rescue Mission's offices.
Credit Scott Willis / WAER News

"I realized there are families that are struggling in this community," Thornton said after he recalled seeing a family struggling to find seats during an especially busy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  "If you have to come to the Rescue Mission as a mom, as a dad, with your kids, you want be able to at least have that dignity of  being able to sit together and have a meal together.  Every child should have that experience with their family."

CEO of the Central New York Community Foundation Peter Dunn explains how that notion turned into a grant.

"So if you have families that are under stress, they're hungry, they're seeking work, they've got health issues, the piece of this that was very motivating in terms of making the grant was the notion that families arrive and they can't be together, and it's already chaotic, and it's difficult."

The Rescue Mission's Food Services Center on Gifford St. opened in the early 1990's.
Credit Marlee Tuskes / WAER News

He says the $150,000 grant is the first awarded from the Donald W. Ryder fund, named after a quiet and reserved Baldwinsville man who left his entire estate to the CNY Community Foundation.  Thornton with the Rescue Mission says the grant helped move the multimillion dollar project forward, which will ultimately expand the food center to nearly 17,000 square feet.

"Currently, we can seat 70 to 80 individuals during one meal time, but we can serve 250 during meal time," Thornton said.  "During Central New York winters and springs, it can be very cold, rainy or snowy.  It's very challenging for those waiting outside the food service center."

Once the project is finished, the food center will be double its current size.  Officials say the $150,000 is a key early gift in the fundraising effort.  Construction is expected to begin in 2018 and take one year to complete.  The Rescue Mission is the only agency providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner year-round for hungry individuals and families.